Running a weekly "Documentation Hour" for data teams

Running a weekly "Documentation Hour" for data teams

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πŸ€“ Why?

While Atlan tries to automate and use algorithms to ease the challenge of getting "context" to understand your data, certain tribal knowledge can only come from your team's Humans of Data.

❓ While we all understand the importance of documentation, the reality is that data teams are super stretched. Sometimes it becomes incredibly difficult for metadata contributors and curators to take time to add all their tribal knowledge into a central tool like Atlan.

πŸ’‘Here's the interesting thing we have found β€” typically the task of adding the metadata isn't that time-consuming. The real challenge is that it always slips to a lower priority among all the other things on your team's plate.

So how can a DataOps champion ensure that documentation doesn't take a backseat in your team's priority list?

To solve this challenge, some amazing DataOps champions started organizing Documentation Hours in their teams on a weekly basis, creating a regular space for users to document the data they were working on.

🌟 What is a Documentation Hour?

A Documentation Hour is a fixed one-hour slot in the team's calendar, when the entire team comes together on a joint video call to document their data assets!

We typically recommend that a single team call has maximum 6-8 members to promote intimacy among the participants. If you'd like more people to be present in a documentation hour, we recommend that the whole team comes together in a central call and, after an initial address, are broken into breakout rooms with 6-8 people and a facilitator in each.

This kind of weekly hour helps your team build a sense of achieving a goal together and fosters a feeling of community.

πŸ€™ TL;DR: Organizing your own Documentation Hour

1️⃣ Start by planning the work you're hoping to accomplish in your Documentation Hour.

The single most important part of the Documentation Hour is the pre-planning. All the data contributors need to know what they are supposed to do in a Documentation Hour. Add the data contributors as Owners to the most important tables that they have knowledge about, and mark those tables as "Work in Progress".

If you'd like to go a step further, you could also create a template such as a DataDoc for the contributors to make documentation easy and standardized.

Now end users can simply log into Atlan and filter by "Owners" and the status as "Work in Progress" to get a list of the data assets they should work on.


2️⃣ Announce the Documentation Hour in your team's communication channel.

Share a message with the team (via email or a chat tool like Slack or Microsoft Teams) about why you came up with the idea of a Documentation Hour.

The best messages follow a few key principles:

  • Create a sense of purpose. (E.g. "As our team grows, it is critical that knowledge is available at the fingertips of new joinees so that they can be onboarded and productive as soon as possible.")
  • Highlight the problem that led to you organizing the Documentation Hour. (E.g. "I know that we all want to document and share our knowledge with the team but are struggling to find dedicated time to do so. To solve this problem, we are creating a shared space where we all come together to dedicate time towards documentation.")
  • Announce the logistics. (E.g. "We are blocking 4-5 p.m. EST on everyone's calendars.")
  • [optional] Make it fun and exciting. (E.g. "There's a very cool award planned for our Doc Champ of the month. Don't miss it!")

3️⃣ Plan the logistics.

  • Send out a recurring calendar invite with the link to the conference call.
  • Do a dry run in case you are planning to use breakout rooms for a large group.
If you want to step up the fun, get a custom Zoom background for all the participants. This can create a feeling of an exclusive community on a mission to rid your company of its data documentation problems! Free tools like Canva have some great templates that you can customize.

4️⃣ Organize the actual Documentation Hour.

  • When contributors join the first Documentation Hour, use the first 5-10 minutes to reiterate the purpose of this shared space and time on their calendars.
  • Do a quick demo of how they can find the assets that they need to work on, by filtering on Atlan by their name (the Owner) and status ("Work in Progress").
πŸ’‘ If you'd like to bring a sense of healthy competition into the team, you can also introduce an award for the "Doc Champ" of the day β€” i.e. the person who moves the most number of data assets from a "work in progress" to "verified" status within the hour. Don't forget to quality control the "verified" status tag by creating a maker-checker kind of policy in the team. This incentivizes the team members to create quality documentation.

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